Embracing authenticity in social work

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Having embarked on a five-year academic journey, Bachelor of Social Work graduate CJ Kane began her path towards social work over a decade ago while working in the disability sector.

CJ celebrating her graduation day in Palmerston North.

During CJ’s time working in the disability sector, she encountered stories of vulnerable people being taken advantage of that sparked her interest in social work. She says many people around her often talked about doing social work, so she decided to give it a try.

“I made the move to Palmerston North to live with my partner, who unfortunately passed away shortly after, and they wanted me to attend Massey. It had a good reputation, and I’ve loved it ever since.”

The 33-year-old says she’s learned a lot about herself during the journey, but the number one lesson has been to be yourself.

“Social work is such a dynamic degree, and we are all here for different reasons. The ability to be yourself and acknowledge others’ viewpoints while upholding your own is vital. Learn who you are, what you are about and what values guide you, then follow through.”

Considering herself an older student compared to her cohort, her student experience meant she was juggling work and other priorities, while also navigating some unexpected challenges.

“I suffered a bad concussion at the end of my first half of second year that impacted my life for over 18 months. Despite this, I continued chipping away at the papers. Then COVID-19 happened, which didn’t make too much difference as I was used to studying at home due to the concussion, but it did impact how the remainder of the degree was delivered. Studying part-time meant I got to mix with multiple student groups, and I really enjoyed the social aspect of the degree. I got to meet many wonderful, supportive and caring people across three different cohorts.”

As part of her degree, CJ undertook a 40-hour voluntary placement and two different 450-hour placements.

“I enjoyed all of my placements. They often went beyond my expectations and I’m glad I got to experience them. Placements are totally what you make them. If you show up early, ask lots of questions and get involved, it will be a blast!”

Outside of studying, CJ is an avid cricket player and says she’s always loved the sport.

“I initially started playing because it was enjoyable, but over time I’ve embraced the social aspects more. It’s never been about being the best, more about playing because friends did. These days, I still play for the social aspect but also to show that transgender people can play sport with their cisgender counterparts. I hope one day I will no longer be the exception and that it will be normal for all people to play the sport they enjoy.”

Now graduated, CJ is taking a year off but says there’s a master’s degree in her future.

“During my first placement, I had an idea and ran it past a lecturer who said it was a brilliant thought and that I needed to do my master’s on it. But I’ll break the study up by working for a year.”

CJ’s advice for future social work students is to practice on yourself.

“If you want to enhance another person’s wellbeing, start with yourself. Throughout the degree, you will be introduced to ideas, concepts and practices, and it’s good to try them on yourself first. Also – do the tutorials! Figure out the systems that work for you to make life easier. My secret to success is a two-parter: The first is to know why you’re doing it, so you can remind yourself everyday why you’re here. The second is to remind yourself that every step you take is one step closer to the end goal you have been striving for.”

She says it’s also important to have a strong support system around you.

“I have so many people to thank! All the people who supported me, shared coffees with me and taught me both in placement and in class – thank you! The biggest thank you to the man who stood behind me all these years. From reading all my essays and offering feedback, to helping bounce ideas around so I could apply concepts and theories to the read world, and for all those cups of tea you would bring when I was stressed from typing. Thank you, Josh!”

Interested in a career change to social work?

If you want to become a registered social worker, but don’t have a bachelor’s degree in social work, Massey’s Master of Applied Social Work is the qualification for you. Learn how you can use your undergraduate degree and become a registered social worker within two years via the upcoming webinar on Wednesday 16 October 2024.

To learn more and sign up, click here.

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